4 By The Baronets – The Vee-Jay Sessions 1965 – Past Daily Weekend Soundbooth: Lost Album Edition
The well-known and very popular Quebec vocal group Les Baronets (featuring future Celine Dion husband Renè Angèlil) were looking to expand their horizons. It was 1965 and the group had already gotten a sizable Canadian following with their covers of British Invasion hits and had been around for some time. They attracted the attention of veteran New York producer Al Kasha, who in turn attracted the attention of Bob Crewe, who was already a well-known fixture in the business with The Four Seasons. Crewe persuaded their label-at-the-time Vee-Jay to sign the band, in the hopes of scoring a repeat hit, as they had with The 4 Seasons (and, to a certain degree The Beatles, who they had lost months earlier).
With Crewe’s team; Bob Gaudio and producer Al Kasha, they proceeded to record an album’s worth of material in March of 1965. All the songs were in English, something the group hadn’t done up to this point, but it was necessary in order to get an American audience. Once the album was completed, the first single was selected (That’s The Way Love Happens b/w Mine All Mine). The album bore a strong resemblance to the style of The 4 Seasons – but with the production team, and many of the session musicians the same ones who also gave the world Big Girls Don’t Cry and Sherry, it was no wonder Les (now The) Baronets were in line to follow their footsteps.
But things went very-very wrong. The single didn’t get past the promo-copy stage before it was learned Vee-Jay had filed for bankruptcy and all the masters, all the material waiting to be released were seized and held by the Court to satisfy creditors. It effectively killed the release of the album, and put Vee-Jay right out of business – from being one of the most successful independent record labels in the world, with one of the most prestigious catalogs, to virtually disappearing overnight.
And where that left The Baronets was back to square one and back in Quebec. The album was never released – the single is a rarity, as only some 500 copies (or less) were pressed, and the experience was best left forgotten about.
Until tonight. Here are 4 tracks from that lost and unreleased album in the original stereo mix – which is still in the vault of whoever now owns the Vee-Jay Masters, waiting for a reissue to come along.
No doubt, aside from Mine All Mine (the single b-side), which you may have heard, the rest you probably haven’t heard at all. So, this might be the first time in 50 years you get a chance to hear what one of the biggest groups in Quebec were sounding like, as they attempted to crash the American market. Sad story, but an all-too familiar one. Such is the nature of the music business.